SAN FRANCISCO - It is Super Bowl 50 and that means Boomer Esiason has been involved in more than a third of them.
Every one since Super Bowl XXXIV as an announcer and the one that never goes away when he was the reigning NFL MVP in 1988 and the Bengals lost Super Bowl VVIII to the 49ers with 34 seconds left.
"There's nothing like playing in it. But if I can't play, then I'd rather do this," said Esiason this week, taking a break from, what else, talking.
"So many great players, so many great moments, starting with last year and the (Malcolm Butler) interception. Sometimes you see a team get a win late and you say to yourself, 'Gee, it would have been nice to win and get to act like a Super Bowl winning team.' But every Super Bowl has its own story."
For the sixth time Esiason is doing what he calls "double duty," analyzing the game on the radio call as well as serving as a CBS studio host. He also punished his voice some more this week while taping his daily morning talk show on New York's WFAN. He was usually walking out of the Super Bowl Media Center at around 8:30 p.m.
"You've got to get sleep and no alcohol," Esiason said of his Super Bowl week. "Or else you can't talk."
If every Super Bowl has a story, Esiason knows there's always a story that's not here. He agrees. Andy Dalton breaking his right thumb back in December is comparable to Esiason breaking his left thumb in December of 1988.
"Oh sure," he said. "It was like I told you during the season. It was his break-out and an MVP-type year where Cam Newton got all the headlines because they were unbeaten for so long."
Esiason believes the Bengals are going to do "fine," in 2016 despite the mushroom cloud hovering over the last minute of the season. He likes the promotion of quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese to fill the job of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and what Andy Dalton did in place of Dalton.
"They'll be one of the better teams next year," he said. "It will be interesting to see how this responds without Hue Jackson. That's two offensive coordinators they've lost and a defensive coordinator to head coach. So something must be good happening in Cincinnati. It's not all bad. I tell people this is an unprecedented run of success that has ended in the first round of the playoffs."
He says the Bengals couldn't have asked for anything more from McCarron.
"He played well enough to beat the Broncos and the Steelers," Esiason said. "They were in every single one of the games he played. It shows you how good that team is. The move with Ken Zampese is good. Continuity is good. Hopefully he calls quarterback-friendly plays."
And with that, Esiason had to cut it off. There is a lot of talking left for this week.
HAWK AND HUE: Andrew Hawkins, the erstwhile Bengals wide receiver, wasted no time here Friday at the Super Bowl, trying to lure his former teammates to Hue Jackson's Browns now taking residence in the AFC North.
Hawkins saw Bengals left end Carlos Dunlap come around the corner on radio row and offered, "Trade him to the Cleveland Browns. Get rid of his butt."
After they both laughed and Hawkins went on his appointed rounds, Dunlap stopped laughing.
"That's going to be an interesting duo," Dunlap said. "You know how Hue is. You know what he brings to the game. I'm excited for Hue to be a head coach, but I'm not looking forward to playing him those two games a year."
But Hawkins doesn't see the Bengals talking a step back in the division with the duo of five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton in place, the tandem that arrived in Hawkins' rookie year of 2011.
"I think the Bengals are still going to be the Bengals. They have a lot talent over there," Hawkins said. "I think losing Hue is going to hurt them. I think losing some of those free agents is going to hurt them. But they've lost free agents before and maintained.
"They've got "The Red Rifle," (Dalton) and all along I've been a big fan. Even the people in Cincinnati I don't think realize they have a gem in Andy. A.J. Green, when all is said and done, is going to be mentioned with the best who ever played the game. Honestly, those are the two guys that make the ship go. That's how it's been since I got there and they've been able to build players around them who are great athletes and great talents. I know our work is cut out for us. That's just part of the process."
Hawkins, who moved to Cleveland in restricted free agency for the 2014 season, couldn't be happier with the Jackson hire after spending two years in Cincinnati with him.
"I know the kind of guy he is," Hawkins said. "I don't mind playing for a new coach who knows what they're talking about, they're focused on winning and does things the right way. With a new coach you don't know that until the guy gets there. I know with Hue that's the case, so I don't have to worry about it."
Hawkins says the Browns have good, young players that need direction and "hopefully Hue can provide it." He says the Bengals locker room began buzzing about this free agency period as early as the 2013 season with the top three receivers up, starting with Green, No. 2 receiver Marvin Jones, and No. 3 receiver Mohamed Sanu, up after the 2015 season until Green signed an extension before last season. But Jones and Sanu are eligible for free agency and Jones said here a few days ago he wants to return to Cincinnati but he wants to test the market, too.
"You put all this work in to maximize the work you've put in and it would be silly to let yourself do it," Hawkins said.
GOODELL SPEAKS: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said a couple of interesting things in his annual Super Bowl news conference.
He started with the Pro Bowl and said he didn't like how the game was played last Sunday, indicating the current format of the game would have to change if it kept producing such an inferior product.
Goodell, who suspended Bengals WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season last month for repeated safety violations, said he's going to recommend to the NFL competition committee that any player who gets two personal fouls in a game be ejected.
The only Bengal to get two unnecessary roughness calls in the same game during Marvin Lewis' 13 seasons as head coach is Burfict back in 2013 against Buffalo.
Lewis is a member of the competition committee, which meets during the next two months before it recommends rule changes to the ownership at the league meeting in late March.
Dunlap thought the Pro Bowl was competitive.
"I felt like we played hard," said Dunlap of the Team Irvin win. "Everyone wanted the extra check to pay for expenses as well as get an extra paycheck for the offseason. I know Team Irvin played hard."
But Dunlap wasn't fond of the logistics with the players billeted on the North Shore, an hour drive from Honolulu.
"The way it was set up for single guys, it was not very smooth," Dunlap said . "I feel like it was an hour away from everything I wanted to do. I was able to do a lot of excursions on the resort, but as a single guy it was a little weird."